On the corner of 17th and Wilson in Arlington lies one of the county’s best kept dining secrets and the most amazing steak restaurant you’ve never heard of: Ray’s the Steaks.
Named the Washington Post’s “Best Steaks” in the Best Bets 2006 Readers’ Choice contest, Ray’s offers mouth-watering steaks at half the price you would expect for steaks like these.
A low seating capacity (only 40 – 50 patrons) and a relatively small dining room, compared to mainstream competitors such as Morton’s and Ruth’s Chris Steak House, makes Ray’s the Steaks one of the most hotly demanded restaurants in town.
On any given day at 4 p.m., prospective diners will line up outside the restaurant hoping to book a reservation for later in the day. Head chef/owner Michael Landrum has always focused on keeping the restaurant as local as possible, meaning Ray’s will not take a reservation through the phone. The only way to guarantee yourself a seat on any given night is by showing up, starting at 4 p.m., on the day of your prospective reservation and making the reservation in person.
Although that may sound like a hassle, the atmosphere, great service and incredible food more than make up for any inconveniences caused by their reservation policy.
Should you land a reservation at Ray’s, there are a few key things to be aware of.
First, while your reservation guarantees you a table, you might not be seated immediately at the time of your reservation. Ray’s encourages patrons to leave quickly after finishing meals, even warning that they may exercise the right to ask diners to leave if they linger too long after their meal, but with such a small restaurant, customer turnover slows down every night. The best bet is to show up at least 15 minutes in advance of the reservation.
Second, while Ray’s is known for its steaks, the other food at the restaurant is equally delicious and very reasonably priced. A cup of the Crab Bisque soup ($3.50) blends a pink, creamy broth with more than a mouthful of fresh, tender crab. And the starter Caesar salad ($5.95) warms your stomach up for the forthcoming meat while leaving plenty of space.
Ray’s earned its moniker for a reason, namely, their steaks. Ray’s, hands down, delivered the most delicious, juicy, savory piece of meat that I have ever had the pleasure of eating. While the crab bisque and Caesar salad hinted at the quality of food that Ray’s tends to offer, nothing compares to your waiter/waitress bringing out giant slabs of meat for everyone at your table.
I personally chose to enjoy the 12-oz., classic cut, New York Strip ($24.95) during my visit to Ray’s. Enough cannot be said about the quality of their meat, which is aged and cut at the restaurant. The steaks are char-grilled to absolute perfection, with compulsive care given to cooking the meat to the exact temperature and doneness that the customer requests. In fact, while most steak restaurants cook your steak more than you would like (often medium-rare steaks come out medium), Ray’s guarantees to have your medium-rare steak coming out with a warm, pink center just like you requested. I also had a chance to sample the New York Strip with a Brandy Mushroom Cream ($29.95). The creamy sauce lathering the steak only enhanced the tender juiciness of the meat.
Along with your savory steaks, Ray’s provides each table with a complimentary side of fluffy garlic mashed potatoes and creamy spinach. Much like the other food at Ray’s, the perfect amount of freshness and preparation combine to create incredible complements to the main course of meat.
The service at Ray’s deserves just as much praise as the delicious food. The waitresses were all speedy and attentive, consistently filling our drinking glasses while checking on us intermittently throughout the meal. Our waitress was also particularly knowledgeable about the perfect combinations of food and drink at Ray’s. She was able to offer a fantastic red wine selection to match our steaks of our choosing.
While it’s potentially tricky to get a table, Ray’s the Steaks is well worth the wait when you do.
Ray’s the Steaks
1725 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22209
Monday – Friday: 5:30 – 10 p.m.
Saturday: 5 – 11 p.m.
Sunday: 5 – 9:30 p.m.